Monday, February 7, 2011

Reading Is Not a Sport

My older daughter, a kindergartener, has to keep a reading log.  Or, rather, I do.  She is not physically capable of writing down the title of the book, the author, whom she read with (or who read to her) and what we discussed in the tiny boxes provided.  So the fact that her homework is actually my homework is one reason I hate reading logs.

But the more important reason I hate them is that counting pages takes the joy out of reading just as counting calories takes the joy out of eating. 

And counting pages (which some schools, but luckily not ours, require) misses the point.  As my sister said at age 5, returning the book the teacher had given her in response to her request for more difficult books, "This book isn't harder; it's just longer."  The length of a book is utterly unrelated to the difficulty of its vocabulary or complexity of its plot or its emotional resonance.  It is unrelated to everything except the question of whether you should get the hardcover or the paperback (or, these days, the e-book) and whether it's too heavy to carry on the subway (for the Kindle- and Nook-less among us).

To mix my metaphors, reading is not a sport.  It's not about how many pages you read or how fast you read them. 

Reading is supposed to be fun.  Or informative.  Or both.  And reading IS fun, when you don't feel like it is being spooned to you like medicine rather than dessert that you eagerly gulp down yourself.

So, teachers, I beg of you: no more reading logs!


  1. Oh, how we hated them. And dad never could remember to sign them, so the kid would be sent to "reading recess" instead of outdoor play. At least he could nap a bit, to make up for staying up too late reading the night before.

  2. I am in total agreement! My son's Kindergarten teachers do not give him homework but I often wonder how I would communicate my feelings about ridiculous homework assignments -- such as the ones you articulate so well here -- in a diplomatic manner.

  3. One caveat - my daughter's kindergarten teacher is absolutely fabulous. The directive to assign the reading log comes down from on high, unfortunately.

  4. Though I can see why the log is annoying, I have to say, as a former teacher, I can see why it's a good idea, ESPECIALLY for kindergarteners who can't keep the log themselves. It's a way for a teacher to keep in communication with the parent, to make sure the parent is involved in the child's education and is reading with and to the child, and that both the parent and the teacher know what the child is reading and is interested in. Not every parent drops his/her child off or picks his/her child up at school every day and has the opportunity to talk to the teacher then, so this is a way to ensure some back-and-forth.